One of Recurrent’s missions is to help dispel the myth that EVs are all fancy Teslas. Many car manufacturers are rushing to bring affordable new models to market to meet rising demand, but used EVs are also a great option for shoppers looking for a great deal. Just note that the past year has seen record price increases in the used car market and record interest in electric vehicles. No one is sure if the market has finally leveled out or not, but you should know that most used EVs are up 20-30% in price since early 2021.
If you’re looking for a budget EV, check out Best Used EVs Under $20K for some insight. However, if you can push your budget up to $30K, there are a lot more options, including newer models that boast higher range, faster charging, and more features.
Best Used EVs Under $30K
2020 Nissan LEAF - 151 miles of EPA rated range
- The LEAF is one of the earliest EVs to hit the streets and it has a near cult following. Since it has been on the road since 2012, the early manufacturing bugs are worked out. It is inexpensive to own, comfortable, and 80% of LEAF drivers would buy another one. Plus, a 2019 or 2020 model year will still have great range and most of the battery warranty left.
2019 Volkswagen e-golf - 125 miles of EPA rated range
- The e-golf was VW’s first production EV and precursor to the recently released ID line. Drivers love the e-Golf style, which goes back to 1974, as well as its comfort and cost to own. 83% of drivers would buy a new one if they were still for sale, which likely translates to the popularity of the ID.4 in the US.
2019 or 2020 Chevy Bolt - 259 miles of EPA rated range
- Despite the battery recall saga of 2021, the Chevy Bolt is a great EV with unbeatable range for its price. Now that almost all Bolts have been outfitted with a new, upgraded 66 kWh battery, used models are really a bargain. The entire battery warranty was also reset, meaning that even with a 2019 Bolt, you still have 8 years or 100,000 miles of coverage.
2018 or 2019 BMW i3 - 153 miles of EPA rated range
- The BMW i3 was built from the ground up with sustainability in mind. It uses state of the art recycled materials that enhance performance. It is also amazingly fun to drive, and gets high satisfaction ratings from our drivers. The i3 also comes with an optional range extender feature, called REx, which may come in under $30K for older models.
Plug-in Hybrids Under $30K
Plug-in hybrids offer limited all electric range after which a combustion engine kicks in to power the car. Drivers report they can run most errands and handle city driving without needing to fill the tank, but feel safe knowing they have additional range should they need it.
2019 Toyota Prius Prime - 25 miles of EPA rated all electric range; up to 640 combined
- The Toyota Prius was many people’s introduction to hybrid electric vehicles. Unlike the Prius, the Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid, meaning that the first 25 miles are all electric and zero emissions.
2020 Ford Fusion Energi - 26 miles of EPA rated all electric range, up to 610 combined
- The Fusion Energi offers 26 miles of emission free driving and boasts great reliability, comfort, and features.
2019 Chevy Volt - 53 miles of EPA rated all electric range, up to 420 combined
- The Chevy Volt has one of the highest all-electric ranges for a hybrid vehicle. Recurrent has had many drivers claim they only fill their gas tank 2-4 times a year. However, the tradeoff is a relatively shorter combination range than other hybrids offer.
Best Used EVs Between $30K and $40K
If you have room in your budget to look at vehicles up to $40K, you open the door to about half the current used EV inventory - over 45,000 vehicles as of February 19, 2022. You start to see some older luxury cars - BMW & Mercedes hybrids, Audis and Teslas - as well as some very new mid-priced options. Some interesting finds are:
2021 Hyundai Kona EV - 258 miles of EPA rated range
- This is the least flashy name on this list, but don’t let that fool you. The Kona EV has a lot of range, great features, and earns near perfect satisfaction ratings. Drivers also like that it does not stand out as an EV and is an easy change to make from an ICE.
2012 to 2014 Tesla Model S - 200 to 265 miles of EPA rated range
- Other than the LEAF, the Model S is up there as one of the earliest production EVs on the road. A Tesla this age should still get between 90 and 95% of its original rated range, and the tech and features still feel new and slick. Plus, this vehicle can charge at the nationwide Supercharger network. Given the rising prices of used Teslas, an older vehicle is a great entry point.
2017 Tesla Model 3 - 220 to 310 miles of EPA rated range
- Everything to say about the Model 3 has already been said. If you can find one under $40K these days, you’re having a good week, but don’t expect top of the line trim. It’s still a good price for a modern classic.
Plug-in Hybrids options include:
2012 Fisker Karma - 33 miles EPA rated all electric range, 240 miles combined
- It’s rare to see Karmas for sale at all, so I wanted to include this one on the list. There are only around 30 in inventory across the country, ranging from $24K to $100K.
2018 BMW 530e - 18 miles EPA rated all electric range, 370 miles combined
- Under the radar, BMW sells a lot of electric vehicles, although most of them in the US are hybrids. However, the stylish BMW plug-ins get the full luxury treatment, with plenty of power, handling, and a battery that you can recharge with a 110V plug.
2016 Cadillac ELR - 40 miles EPA rated all electric range, 340 miles combined
- This sporty luxury coupe has enough electric range to run around town in style. Improvements from earlier model years make it more powerful and efficient, too.
Things to Consider When EV Shopping
The battery is the heart of an EV. Rather than burning gasoline to power a car, electric cars use a very strong lithium ion battery, like a far more complex version of the battery in your cell phone or computer. An EV can do almost anything a conventional car can do - except fill up with gas!
Here are some important things to keep in mind.
When your phone battery is close to depleted, you plug it in to a charger that’s connected to an electric outlet. EVs are no different. While you can plug an electric car into your wall, it’s a pretty big battery and it may take a long time to fully charge. Many EV drivers have special, higher voltage chargers installed at home (or at work!) so they can “refuel” their car in a matter of hours. Just as a reminder, a 240V plug is the same as what a typical washer/dryer unit needs. You may be able to get rebates, incentives, or tax credits if you install an EV charger at home or work - this varies state by state and by utility company.
Like with a gas car, you don’t always have to refill the entire battery, but you can “top off” or just add enough energy to get you where you’re going next. Lithium ion batteries fill up more quickly at first then slow down as they get past 80% charged.
Beyond the fancy settings and gadgets, EVs are much simpler machines than their gas-using counterparts. There are no internal explosions (“combustion”), no spark plugs, and no gears. This means that a lot less can break. However, EVs are still expensive pieces of equipment that you invest in, and they do come with warranties. While the powertrain and mechanical parts of the warranty are similar to gas fueled cars, what most people care about with EVs is the battery warranty. This protects the most expensive part of your EV from serious malfunction, and often guarantees that it will maintain a certain degree of battery health over a certain amount of time. Most often, batteries are insured for 8 years or 100,000 miles.
Note that drivers of plug-in hybrids in certain states that adhere to California’s air quality rules may have longer or more comprehensive warranties on their batteries - 10 years or 150,000 miles in PZEV states.
Efficiency for EVs is expressed in MPGe, or “miles per gallon (of gasoline) equivalent” is a way to compare the energy used by an EV to that used by a conventional vehicle. MPGe is calculated using the standard value of 33.7 kilowatt-hours (121 megajoules) of electricity being equivalent to one gallon of gas. This is an estimate based on the standard value of energy in one gallon of gasoline, and is also equivalent to 115,000 British thermal units (BTUs).
The overall MPGe value is usually a combination of city and highway values. Unlike traditional cars, electric cars tend to drive more efficiently on city streets, due to recaptured energy from regenerative braking.
Other values you may see on an EPA Fuel Economy sticker are kilowatt hours per 100 miles, or kWh/100mi. This is an expression of efficiency that may be more familiar to drivers: it is similar to how many gallons of gas you need to go 100 miles. The lower the number, the more efficient the vehicle. The average miles per kWh is between 2 and 4 for most commercially available EVs, with that value varying on how fast and where you’re driving.
Final Tips for Finding the Best Used EV
In general, you’ll find that less expensive EVs are older and have smaller batteries that can travel less on a charge. This is largely due to the price of lithium ion batteries, which has dropped around 85% in ten years on a per kWh basis. This means that even modest batteries in 2013 were far more expensive than bigger batteries in 2020.
Also, you’ll note that our charging times are estimated with a 220V charger. This is the same sort of outlet you need for a washer/dryer, and an electrician usually needs to install it. Standard 110V plugs can charge most EVs but at a much slower rate. The charge times listed are for full charges, but you can usually get to 80% charge much faster than listed. EV batteries charge faster when they are near empty and slow as they approach 70-80% in order to protect the battery health.
Looking for your first electric car? Check out by our free e-book on EV range.